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Sunday, September 16, 2012

+Don Binney (1940-2012)+

I always feel particularly ignorant and doubly impoverished when my first awareness of an artist whose work I wish I'd already long known comes only upon the news of his or her death. Such is the case with the passing of  New Zealand artist Don Binney, who died on September 14th, at the age of 72, following a heart attack.

Binney was known primarily for his bold, iconic paintings of birds. Binney described himself as an amateur ornithologist and said that his close observation of birds allowed him an entry point into landscape as a whole, and, consequently, a way to see and paint the world around him. That world, as he came to see it, was a place of wonder and enchantment, which he communicated in his equally enchanting paintings. 

An interesting sidebar: During an interview, he once explained that his characteristic bird-centric compositional style was not, as is sometimes assumed, the result of either a conscious or unconscious primitivism. But that it quite probably derived, at least in part, from his ornithological habit of viewing birds through a pair of binoculars where they quite logically dominated the visual plane.

On the subject of his reverence for nature and the environment, he once wrote:

"A friend of mine who is interested in comparative religious imagery and the universal belief in the fairy, the demon, the pixy, the duende, was talking to a group of students. One question he asked was: 'Does anyone here believe in an enchanted forest?'

I'm glad to say that the general consensus was that a forest must be enchanted. The enchanted forest must be entered with reverence, but freely, like a shrine. The minute it's said, 'You will not enter this place without a permit', it has ceased to be a shrine: it's become a profit and loss thing."

In the few short hours since I've discovered Binney's work, my life has been enriched by both his vision and his philosophy. I look forward to enjoying his work for the rest of my life. I only regret that it took his passing for me to realize that, until yesterday, we shared the planet for such a long time without me so much as noticing.

The little watercolor above in today's "daily eyeball" was obviously executed under his influence. I suspect it's an influence that I'll be operating under for some time to come.

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